Billiards, the game which is loved by millions all across the world, has a rich history, and its origins can be traced back to the 1300s in Europe. Initially played as a lawn game, the game soon evolved to the indoor version, one which we are familiar with today, but of course, the version played earlier was a lot cruder. Who invented billiards is a very common question, as curiosity is human nature, but since the game dates so far back, giving an accurate answer to that question is not possible all the time.
The Evolution of Billiards –
The evolution of the game has been traced back to the centuries before the Renaissance, which is around 1100 AD. This was the period when a lot of ancient drawings of people playing a sport which looked uncannily like billiards was discovered. Europe was going through a lot of changes, with the onset of the Crusades which was when the Christian Military had the goal to recapture what they thought to be Holy Lands from the Muslims. This was when men from England, Scandinavia, and west Europe came together to fight for one common cause. Playing some form of billiards was a very common occurrence.
People strongly believe that the French were who invented billiards. They also believe that the name billiards was derived from the French word “bile” which means a long piece of wood and “bill” which means various spherical objects. While some people might disregard the French as the inventors of the game, they still cannot deny the influence France had on billiards. For the French, billiards wasn’t just a game – it was a culture. They focused of making better playing equipment to make the experience of playing billiards more and more enjoyable.
Opposition to Billiards –
During the period of the Crusades, while many people enjoyed the game thoroughly, there was a large percentage of people who believed that playing for pleasure is equivalent to sin. The only time it was not considered sinful was when billiards was played in a Church setting and played according to the rules laid down by the church itself. In 1369, Charles VI of France limited the playing of the game to just one day in a whole year! These restrictions were made to make sure they had some hold on the common people.
The first billiards table –
While there is no fixed response to when the and where the first billiards table was built, but it has been known that the game board which was used earliest and looked similar to the table that exists today, was used by kings and royalty. The earlier versions of the game were similar to ground games, which included posts, pegs, and arches. The cue sticks were smaller and rails were used to define the space of the playing surface. Personalized tables were only built for kings and royalty so that they could play the game indoors in their own privacy. By the 1500s, the game was popular throughout the French society. Billiards tables were easily available to those who wanted them. This led to the spreading of the game in England in the late 1500s as well.
The game of billiards that we play today sure has come a long way, but it a result of centuries of modifications. The most revolutionary item was the cue, which only came into use on the 1700s. Before that, much shorter maces were in use. It is more than evident that who invented billiards is a question which still haunts a lot of historians, but one thing is for sure- the sport went through a lot of political turmoil to become what it is today, making it one of the most loved indoor games ever.